Back in September 2009, I was pregnant.
Two years. God, it's so long ago.
I got a book out of the library. Bonding with Your Bump: The First Book on How to Begin Parenting in Pregnancy
. I was really excited. I started massaging my bump. Talking to the baby. Doing all the wonderful things that naive first-time parents who don't live in or around the ALI neighbourhood do. Expecting that everything will be perfect.
But then. What happened happened, and it became abundantly, horribly clear that I had been talking to myself. And, possibly naively - hell, totally naively - I went back to that book. Wondering what it said about losing a pregnancy. Thinking it would at least have a few sentences about how women could cope after losing a much-wanted, much-loved baby. Thinking it would definitely talk about pregnancy after loss. After all, who is potentially going to find it harder to bond with a subsequent pregnancy than a woman who has lost a child?
It. Had. NOTHING.
Not a single word.
Well. In one or two places pregnancy loss is obliquely referred to, mainly referring to parents’ reluctance to share the news about their baby until they are past the 12 week ‘danger’ period. But nowhere does the book explicitly discuss - or even allude to! - the loss of a baby and how devastating this can be. There is certainly nothing acknowledging the possibility of losing a baby once the first trimester seems to be safely over; there's nothing to acknowledge that even if you do everything right – give up alcohol and caffeine, eat healthily, reduce your stress levels, etc – a successful pregnancy is not guaranteed.
The bloody book even states that parents may find it hard to tell people that they have had a miscarriage if they have shared the news of their pregnancy before the 12 week 'danger period' is over (and oh my God, if only pregnancies were safe once you were past 12 weeks.....) No consideration of the fact that most women will need love and support if you lose a baby, no matter how early.
I wrote to Miriam Stoppard, less than a month after losing the baby, saying all this. I never received a response. Not even a form letter.
I actually got the book out of the library again when I found out I was pregnant last year. Wanting to bond with the baby, knowing that I needed help. Thinking it couldn't be as uncaring as I remembered. But it was, it was. I've looked through a few of her books now. I've never found one that even mentions in passing how utterly devastating pregnancy loss is.
Even worse, the book discusses the effects of stress and anxiety on an unborn child in extremely negative terms, without putting it into the perspective of a mother who has lost a child and how stressful and scary a time pregnancy can be. And it seems terribly unfair to scare women who are already terrified of pregnancy into thinking they are damaging their unborn child by suffering from anxiety and depression - related to the loss of their child!! - in a subsequent pregnancy. (I suffered from debilitating anxiety and moderate depression at times, but have ended up with a very calm, chilled, happy baby, so obviously it's not as simple as she makes out.)
I don't want her to withdraw or rewrite her book. But I do want her to add in some information about pregnancy loss and how to cope with a pregnancy after infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. And as always, contact details for SANDS wouldn't go amiss.
I've written an open letter to Miriam Stoppard. I'm thinking about publishing it here and asking people to tweet the link to her. Because apparently writing to her publishers didn't work, and honestly?
If she added a chapter about pregnancy post-loss, this book could be a comfort to women who are pregnant post-loss. But right now, it feels like a kick in the teeth. And bereaved parents are the last people who need to be kicked in the teeth.